It’s a theme that’s come up once or twice in past articles, but I adore it too much. I must beat it into the ground.
Presenting Dino Drac’s latest recurring feature: DEADSITES. Through the power of the Wayback Machine, we’re going to look at lots of old, dead websites. Why? Because I’m screwy, and I find the strangest things interesting.
Usually, the sites I’ll be covering won’t simply be “older” versions of still-existing entities. I’m more interested in the purely promotional sites, for movies, products and random events. Sites that were never meant to stay up permanently (and technically, didn’t), but sites that were still absolutely stuffed with all sorts of great, goofy crap. So much pop culture nostalgia awaits, with a generous dash of “old internet” thrown in the mix!
For the inaugural edition of Deadsites, I’ve chosen a doozy. From July of 1999 (!!!), let’s reexamine the official site of everyone’s favorite croc-on-the-loose movie… Lake Placid!
You do remember Lake Placid, right?
Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman? Betty White? A GIANT CROCODILE?
There’s the trailer. Get reacquainted!
I love this film unconditionally. It made me stop irrationally hating Oliver Platt! Lake Placid proved that lighthearted horror could really work, and the film overachieved by every conceivable measure. It was witty, it looked good, and every few minutes, a giant crocodile ate someone.
…and its website was all kinds of awesome.
The intro page included a fantastic GIF of the aforementioned crocodile, BITING A MAN IN HALF. This was all set against a woodsy design that perfectly complimented the movie’s locale. If that was all this site had to offer, it would still be worth gushing about 13 years later.
Holy shit… this website is 13 years old?
My second discovery was this two-page plot synopsis, written by someone who really liked hyphens. This established the setting (Maine), the cast (Fonda) and the croc (giant).
Look close and you’ll also notice a little sign nailed to a tree, featuring a blurb from TNT Rough Cut. Apparently, Lake Placid was “this year’s Anaconda!”
(Actually, Lake Placid was ten times better than Anaconda. The only thing Anaconda had on Lake Placid was Ice Cube yelling, “THERE’S SNAKES OUT THERE THIS BIG?!” And yeah, in the film’s defense, that line was a pretty major feather in its cap.)
The site also had a dedicated “Characters” section, featuring virtually everyone from the cast. Even the unimportant people! Sadly, they didn’t go all-in with a joke page for the crocodile itself. (Don’t worry, they made up for that omission in a big way, later.)
The above sample is of Betty White’s page. She played Mrs. Bickerman, the constantly-cursing old lady who was firmly on Team Croc.
Betty White was a huge part of the film’s appeal. Remember, back in 1999, Betty wasn’t doing much. She was a long way from that unlikely career renaissance. Lake Placid was the first thing I could remember seeing her in after The Golden Girls, unless you count those public service announcements where she encouraged everyone to adopt more dogs. At that time, a Betty White sighting of any kind was a big deal, but here, we had Betty White playing a sailor-mouthed croc-loving asshole.
Next was a photo gallery of movie stills, each with a quote. Love how they worked the “feeder cow” into the mix.
Adhering to the standards of 1999, this wasn’t a true slideshow. When you clicked one of the arrows, every element on the page had to reload. Given that nearly all of us were still on dial-up, scanning through photos of Bridget Fonda and cows was a major time investment.
Though I was able to load the “Movies” page, none of the files still worked. Remembering what it was like to be a webmaster who offered files of similar sizes even a full year after this, I can confirm that a 2 megabyte download really WAS a big deal, both for the people offering it and the people taking it. You had to REALLY like Lake Placid to watch all of those videos.
I already have several editions of Deadsites half-built. Up above is the main reason why I decided to go with Lake Placid first. The Croc Drop game. Tiny, crude, and absolutely fantastic. And, through a miracle that indisputably validated the presence of some higher power, it actually still worked!
In Croc Drop, you portray the crocodile. Your goal is to eat a never-ending supply of old ladies who fall out of a circling helicopter. Complicating matters, the helicopter is just as likely to throw enormous weights at you. You can’t eat those, and even if you have no inclination to try, they still might bonk you on the head.
I’m not sure if it’s possible to win or lose, or if this was one of those things that just went on forever, without shame or purpose. I counted the discovery of a thirteen-year-old “crocodile eats women” game as victory enough.
Those were the best bits of the website, but there were other features, too. (Notably a “Behind the Scenes” section that provided a brief history lesson about director Steve Miner… who also directed two of the Friday the 13th movies! No wonder I love Lake Placid so much.)
Overall, this little page is a perfect example of why I’m doing this Deadsites thing. They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore, and for all the improvements that time has given us, I still miss the “intimate cheese” of Ye Olde Ancient Internet.
There’s much more to come. Stay tuned!